Light & Verity

Students wary of college expansion

Is the proposed construction of two new residential colleges at Yale -- and a 12 percent increase in undergraduate enrollment -- a foregone conclusion? The Yale administration has taken pains to emphasize that the decision will not be made until February, when the Yale Corporation hears the reports of two committees charged with considering the effects of such a move on academics and student life. But the university has listed the cost of the colleges -- some $545 million -- in its budget for next year. And planning for other projects, such as the renovation of Morse and Ezra Stiles colleges, appears to incorporate assumptions that the new colleges will be built.

At student forums this fall and in the campus media, many students have expressed doubts about the expansion plan and skepticism that their concerns would have an impact on the decision. Forty-eight percent of undergraduates polled by the Yale Daily News in November opposed the plan; 23 percent favored it and 29 percent were undecided. Some students fear that adding another 650 new students to the current 5,275 will make Yale a less intimate place. Others say that the proposed location -- on Prospect Street between the Grove Street Cemetery and Ingalls Rink -- is too far from the other colleges and the center of campus.

Administrators speaking at one of the student forums, on November 1 in Morse College, talked about ways Yale could reduce the geographic problems: including a third building on the site to house classrooms or student activity space, thus drawing undergraduates to the area from other parts of campus); enhancing shuttle bus service; and adding new, more active uses to the buildings along Prospect Street across from the cemetery.

President Levin says the student objections don't surprise him. "They understandably are deeply concerned that nothing dilute the quality of the Yale College experience, and I think that we are listening deeply to that concern," he says. "There's a lot of enthusiasm in the alumni population, there's considerable enthusiasm among the faculty, and there's understandable concern among the students, and we're listening to all of this."

The Corporation has made one decision about the colleges: if they are built, Levin says, they will not be named for their donors.

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